Background: RNA expression analysis of oral keratinocytes can be used to detect early stages of disease such as oral cancer or to monitor on-going treatment responses of the same or other oral diseases. A limitation is the inability to obtain high quality RNA from oral tissue without using biopsies. While oral cytology cell samples can be obtained from patients in a minimally invasive manner they have not been validated for quantitative analysis of RNA expression.
Methods: As a starting point in the analysis of tumor markers in oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC), we examined RNA in brush cytology samples from hamsters treated with dibenzo[a,l]pyrene to induce oral carcinoma. Three separate samples from each animal were assessed for expression of candidate marker genes and control genes measured with real-time RT-PCR.
Results: Brush oral cytology samples from normal mucosa were shown to consist almost exclusively of epithelial cells. Remarkably, ß-2 microglobulin and cytochrome p450, 1B1 (CYP1B1) RNA showed potential utility as markers of OSCC in samples obtained in this rapid and non-surgical manner.
Conclusion: Brush oral cytology may prove useful as a source of RNA for gene expression analysis during the progression of diseases of the oral epithelium such as OSCC.